Can Engineers Save the Planet from Climate Change and Its Effects?

By Rodrigo Fernandes, Ph.D, Director, ES(D)G – Empowering Sustainable Development Goals

Globally, we continue to witness the increasingly destructive impacts of climate change on human and natural systems. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events such as wildfires, floods, and droughts are costing lives, disrupting infrastructure, economies, and setting back development progress that has taken years to establish. According to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, at least 85% of the world’s population has been affected by events directly related to climate change and extreme weather events. In January of this year, the Washington Post reported that more than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that were hit by climate-related disasters in 2021.

In 2015, two crucial pathways for a sustainable future were defined.

At the Paris Agreement, most of the world committed to a common goal of keeping the increase in global temperatures to below 2°C and confirmed continuing efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C. This international treaty on climate change was signed at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC). As of November 2021, 193 members of the UNFCCC are parties to the agreement.

Also in 2015, all UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action defined by 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet, to be implemented by every country till 2030. SDG 13 is about “Taking Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change”. Crucially, SDG 13 underlines that the task is being advanced under the UNFCCC to minimize the duplication of efforts and optimize finite resources.

According to the two pathways described above, we have now less than ten years to halve global greenhouse gas emissions and meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than 1.5°C. This is undoubtedly one of the most significant innovation challenges we have ever faced. Furthermore, while we face this decarbonization challenge, we simultaneously need to implement “incremental and transformative solutions” in order to keep up with the “rapid and significant changes in our climate and our world,” according to the most recent IPCC report.

Approximately 79% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from infrastructure, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme. Although the energy sector remains the most significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, infrastructure systems play a direct role in nearly all of the top 11 sectors where our society produces most greenhouse gases that are changing our climate, according to Climate Watch.

On the other hand, infrastructure is a crucial driver for growth, employment, and better quality of life. Moreover, there cannot be significant progress on climate action without infrastructure. Low-emission, climate-resilient development pathways depend on how, when, and at what scale we future-proof our infrastructure and make it sustainable.

More in the next blog post about climate change…

This article was reposted with prior written permission of Bentley Systems. © 2022 Bentley Systems, Incorporated.

(Source: Fernandes, Rodrigo. “Can Engineers Save the Planet from Climate Change and Its Effects?” Bentley Blog, Bentley Systems, 9 Mar. 2022,

About Bentley

Bentley Systems (Nasdaq: BSY) is the infrastructure engineering software company. We provide innovative software to advance the world’s infrastructure – sustaining both the global economy and environment. Our industry-leading software solutions are used by professionals, and organizations of every size, for the design, construction, and operations of roads and bridges, rail and transit, water and wastewater, public works and utilities, buildings and campuses, mining, and industrial facilities. Our offerings include MicroStation-based applications for modeling and simulation, ProjectWise for project delivery, AssetWise for asset and network performance, Seequent’s leading geoprofessional software portfolio, and the iTwin platform for infrastructure digital twins. Bentley Systems employs more than 4,500 colleagues and generates annual revenues of approximately $1 billion in 186 countries.

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